Remove Adware in Windows: The simplest guide

Remove Adware in Windows: The simplest guide

Viruses have been common for years. Windows users are used to them more than others. Without going into bashing Microsoft again (because they have done a decent job now with their Defender), let us see how we can,

  • Detect and eliminate Adware in Windows and then
  • Prevent any future infection in the future as well

What is Adware? How to remove Adware in Windows?

Wikipedia defines Adware innocently as any software that allows advertisements to be shown to the end user to generate revenue for the developer. This may be true for the altruistic odd developer. But usually the run of the mill adware are coded so that they can almost sneak in via legitimate or apparently legitimate software installs.

The intent of this post is not to highlight the genuine cases where the developer honestly distributes software to recover his investments or earn his livelihood. I personally am more concerned about adware that exists purely as malware. These not only analyze and monetize my behavior while using the application concerned, but also force me to buy stuff I don’t need, create irritants by randomly opening popup windows, installing other software without my express permission and so on.

These are annoying and eventually leaves the door open for a Trojan horse to get in easily. Here is how you can identify if your system is infected by Adware.

How to know if you have Adware in Windows

Thankfully, this is simple. Adware does not hide. They will make their presence known right away. You will have popups when you browse the internet or have modal windows open that you cannot close and so on. Here are some of the symptoms that should point to a possible infection.

  1. Random popups and windows that you cannot close. This occurs more than once and continues every now and then. It will be recurring.
  2. You see that software have been installed without your express knowledge. Many free to use software notoriously distribute adware enabled programs to generate revenue. While often legal, these are tools you do not need.
  3. Applications will start up every time you boot. This increases the boot time.

How to Remove Adware in Windows

The default antivirus solution for Windows is good. But Windows Defender will not be able to do anything if you have quickly ‘Accepted’ some terms and conditions while installing a free application. While access has been granted, it cannot be revoked. Unless you uninstall the application that is.

The best solution that is both free and extremely effective is download MalwareBytes AdwCleaner and all the adware and the potentially unwanted programs (PUP) will be removed. In the vast majority of the cases, this is all you need to do to remove all adware in Windows systems.

How about Adware in Windows that lie hidden

It is unlikely, but possible that Adware may still be there in your system and MalwareBytes may not detect it. If the symptoms persist, you know the root cause still remains.

Here’s how you can remove them.

  1. First step is to identify the issue.
    The simplest way to do that is to fire up the Task Manager when the offending popups open. Note down any application that you do not recognize. There is an easy way to track programs and the location of the file as well. Removing them then is easy. In case the Task Manager is not working or is blocked, download the Process Explorer from the SysInternals Suite page. It is way more powerful anyway.
  2. Now go to Programs and Features and check for any application that you do not recognize. If in doubt check any of the lesser known applications that you find installed.

    Remove Adware – remove suspicious software from add remove programs in Windows
  3. Remove all unnecessary Browser plugins that you have. These are usually the worst offenders. Read this post on how to get it done for each browser. If you have Internet Explorer and Chrome on your System, do the cleanup for both. Even if you never use Internet Explorer or Edge anyway.
  4. Go check the applications that are scheduled to run during Startup. This is a dead giveaway. Adware that refuses to go will have a startup entry. Simply because they want to be there when you use it. What better way to get started than when you boot into Windows in the first place?
    Remove adware - Fire up msconfig, verify and disable/kill the services or processes that are not of Microsoft
    Remove adware – Fire up msconfig, verify and disable/kill the services or processes that are not of Microsoft

    Fire up msconfig or search for System Configuration from the Start Menu. Select the checkbox for ‘Hide all Microsoft services’ and give it a thorough look. If there is a service that is suspect, give it a Google search and Disable.

  5. Check the Startup applications from the Task Manager. Remove anything that you don’t find necessary or suspect.

    Remove Adware - kill processes that refuse to go away. Then go to their location (check it before closing it by right clicking on it) and delete them from there.
    Remove Adware – kill processes that refuse to go away. Then go to their location (check it before closing it by right clicking on it) and delete them from there.

How to prevent Adware in Windows entirely?

Exercising common sense is usually the best antidote. The following tips should keep you safer.

  1. Keep your antivirus software updated. Better have a decent firewall too. Malwarebytes will greatly help too.
  2. Take your time when you install applications. Check if the free app bundles other free apps that you do not need. Uncheck them so you get only what you want.
  3. Avoid pirated copies. When you install those using Administrator privileges, they are free to install anything with elevated permissions. Use trusted sources and applications.
  4. Look out for offers that are just too good to be true. Do a quick search. Some basic research will keep you safe.
  5. Have good backups so that your data is safe, come what may.

If you can follow these steps religiously, it is highly unlikely that you will ever come across serious Adware in the first place. In case you are infected, you know what to do.